Holiday-themed movies are becoming an annual tradition for actor Tanner Novlan, who is best known as the "struggling actor" in those Liberty Mutual commercials and as Dr. John "Finn" Finnegan in CBS's The Bold and the Beautiful. Last year he co-starred in the Showtime movie My Best Friend's Christmas, and as it is for many actors, this year he completes his acting "rite of passage" by starring in his first Hallmark Channel holiday film Christmas Class Reunion. The film is the delightfully contemporary tale of the 2007 Brookswood High senior class (dubbed the "cursed class" for reasons made obvious in the film) and the efforts of their former class president and valedictorian Elle Chamberlain (Aimeé Teegarden), who was unsurprisingly voted Most Likely to Succeed, to organize the perfect 15-year reunion. But when "the curse" raises its ugly head all over again, Elle finds herself relying on class goof-off Devin Ryan (Novlan), now a successful event planner, to help get things on track.
"This is my second Christmas-themed movie and I love them so much," Novlan shared in an exclusive interview with MediaVillage. "We get to deal with real issues, but at the end of the day it's Christmas and it's that magic that's around the movie at all times. Even shooting it, you feel that spirit; it interjects itself into the film no matter what, and I think it's a really lovely thing. So, I'm super excited for everyone to tune in.
"Christmas Class Reunion is a different spin on one of these classic movies with a [great] ensemble cast," he continued. "It's very much the story of the Elle character, but there are a lot of other classmates involved and it's all a little more heightened. I liked [all] the different storylines that were incorporated under the theme of going back to who you once were. Your expectations of yourself at that time of life, then who you kind of end up becoming. That idea of having different characters all relating to a similar theme, yet in their own different ways, was really appealing to me -- and really cool!"
As a Christmas devotee, Novlan was thrilled getting the call from Hallmark about this one, especially since he was already a Hallmarkie. "They approached me with the idea, and I was right away on board with it," he said. "Especially with them! They've made so many great ones over the years. Their product is always so great and Aimeé was on board at that point. I thought, 'Oh, she's a real sweetheart and would be fun to work opposite her.' And she's fantastic. There wasn't a downside to any of it. Oh, and Christmas and fun! Yeah, let's go!"
According to the actor, the cast did indeed have a lot of fun -- especially when it came to filming a flashback scene that had everyone revisiting their high school looks circa 2007. "We all got to put our own spin on our younger versions of the characters," he laughed. "I ended up [having] the same hair I actually had in high school, but why did I have that hair? I mean Zac Efron High School Musical hair! Which I may or may not have actually had. Everyone was like, look at my hair, my braces. Getting to play younger versions of the characters was fun as you got to be a little silly and lighter. There's a lot to learn when you're a kid, even though you think you got everything figured out, so it was great doing that for a couple days. It added a little shake-up to the middle of the shoot."
In addition to the levity, Novlan enjoyed exploring the evolution of his character from goof-off to a responsible single parent. "There is a big evolution for my character," he explained. "I understand that turning point, as I have two young ones now and I hope I'm more responsible than I used to be. Devin is still fun and very involved, especially in his kid's life, as a parent should be, but he's lost sight of moving forward from that. His daughter is growing up and asking to spread her wings, which is scary for him because he's going to have to evolve again. The whole movie is really about the evolution of yourself through life. Elle helps him with that, with a little nudge.
"He's also dealing with a very bright daughter," Novlan added. "Brighter than him, but the goal in life is to make someone smarter and more with it than yourself. Still, it's a hard pill to swallow sometimes when they're so exceptional."
Given the film's short shooting schedule, Novlan was thankful for the experience he has gained at his day job on The Bold and the Beautiful. "It's very much sink or swim on a daytime drama," he reflected. "Luckily I'm in a great cast that really helped me cut my teeth. They're a great family that has been around for 35 years and it's an honor to be part of such a legacy.
"My character, Dr. Finnegan, has only been on [Bold] for two years, but he's lived 25!" he added. "He's been shot. He has a birth mother and an adoptive mother. A wife, a pregnancy. Had a paternity test, and he came back from the dead! When we get a script, no one knows where the characters are going, and I think that's why it's been so successful. Still, it was refreshing to have a beginning, middle and end with this movie."
Having never attended a high school reunion, Novlan is happy Hallmark provided him an opportunity. "Doing this movie, I kind of wish I had," he shared in closing. "I still have friends from high school, and now I have a Hallmark family too! I like working with fun people and this whole experience has been absolutely wonderful."
Christmas Class Reunion will be telecast Saturday, December 10 at 8 p.m. on Hallmark Channel as part of its Countdown to Christmas programming event.
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